Authorities investigating the cause of a charter bus collision on Sunday, April 8 have shifted their focus to the non-commercial GPS device installed on the bus. It allegedly failed to warn the driver of a low-clearance overpass on Long Island’s Southern State Parkway, which lead directly to the crash.
The accident, which happened shortly after 9 p.m., caused serious injuries to at least two high school students on board. Others with less severe injuries also required treatment and were later released from medical facilities in the region.
The preventable bus wreck happened as the Journey Bus Tours commercial transport vehicle was headed east on the return from JFK Airport. At the time of the crash, the driver, 38 students from multiple schools and five chaperones were aboard. The group had just toured eastern Europe.
According to police, the 43-year-old driver was remorseful about the collision that sheared off the top half of the bus. He was a licensed commercial driver, and while toxicology reports are still pending, he was not believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash.
From evidence that investigators were able to recover, it’s believed that the GPS device installed on the bus failed to alert the driver that the bus would not clear the 7 foot, 10 inch minimum clearance of the parkway’s overpass. Commercial traffic, including tractor-trailers and buses, are not allowed to ride on the Southern State Parkway.
A major with the New York State Police stated that there were no indications that the driver attempted to slow down or stop prior to striking the bottom of the overpass.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation (DOT) said that a state-of-the-art warning system was being installed along that stretch of road in Lakeview. The high-tech system was designed to send out invisible beams that could detect vehicles too tall to safely clear these low overpasses. Many were built as long as 80 years ago when vehicles were not manufactured to be so large. The system was still undergoing testing at the time of the crash.
The spokesperson added that there was signage listing vehicle height restrictions and prohibiting commercial vehicles from driving on the parkway.
Source: WABC TV, “Non-commercial GPS eyed in Long Island bus crash that injured dozens,” April 10, 2018